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The Grim Implications of Obama’s New Defense Plan

January 14, 2012 

Joseph Gersonʻs analysis of the Pentagon’s New Strategic Guidance “The Grim Implications of Obama’s New Defense Plan” has been published in Counterpunch:

In early January the Obama Administration released the Pentagon’s new Guidance, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. It is clearly designed less to cut U.S. military spending than to reorder Pentagon priorities to ensure full spectrum dominance (dominating any nation, anywhere, at any time, at any level of force) for the first decades of the 21st century. As President Obama himself said, after the near-doubling of military spending during the Bush era, the Guidance will slow the growth of military spending, “but…it will still grow:, in fact by 4% in the coming year.”

The new doctrine places China and Iran at the center of U.S. “security” concerns. It thus prioritizes expansion of U.S. war making capacities in Asia and the Pacific and Indian Oceans, by “rebalanc[ing] toward the Asia-Pacific region…empahsiz[ing] our existing alliances.” This means Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and now Australia and India as the U.S. “pivots” from Iraq and Afghanistan to the heartland of the 21st century global economy, Asia and the Pacific.  The implications for Okinawa and Japan should be clear: Washington will be doing all that it can to ensure that Japan remains its unsinkable aircraft carrier, including pressing for construction of the new air base in Henoko.

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Obama Channels Teddy Roosevelt

December 12, 2011 

Last week, President Obama delivered a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the same town where Theodore Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910.   New Yorker columnist John Cassidy described this speech as Obama finding his voice and defining his theme for the 2012 election:

This is Obama seeking to define the themes he intends to run on next year, to energize his disillusioned base, and to capitalize on a big change in the political climate. Teddy Roosevelt, whose famous “New Nationalism” speech in 1910 called upon the three branches of the federal government to put the public welfare before the interests of money and property, merely provided a convenient framing device.

Obama even appropriated the 99% vs 1% language of the Occupy movement.
Edward-Isaac Dovere and Jennifer Epstein wrote in Politico that “Barack Obama channels Teddy Roosevelt”:
Yet the Roosevelt that Obama attached himself to in Osawatomie is the one who unveiled the radical anti-corporate philosophy that broke him from the Republican Party. Roosevelt famously declared, “Our public men must be genuinely progressive.”

However, for those of us who are still struggling to remove the colonial yoke placed upon us by Roosevelt, Obama’s new fondness for Roosevelt is not a positive sign.

Roosevelt held to lifelong beliefs in Aryan supremacy. This ideology informed his outlook on the duty of the U.S. to occupy and “civilize” places like Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, Guam and the Philippines. When he was Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt advocated for the occupation of Hawai’i in order for the U.S. to acquire a military base with which to traverse the Pacific ocean. Steeped in the writings of Frederick Jackson Turner and Capt. Afred Thayer Mahan, Roosevelt sought to win domestic peace and prosperity through an imperialist strategy. It seems that Obama is attempting the same.

Obama’s recent high profile foreign policy ‘pivot’ to the Pacific and emphasis on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement are reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt’s “Imperial Cruise” of 1905. In that year he wrote: “Our future history will be more determined by our position on the Pacific facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe.”

Roosevelt believed that Japanese people were sufficiently similar to Europeans in intelligence and character that they could be considered ‘honorary’ Aryans. He negotiated a secret Taft-Katsura agreement with the Empire of Japan allowing Japan to invade and annex Korea and north eastern China while the U.S. annexed Hawai’i, Guam and the Philippines. Roosevelt’s policy decisions set off a chain of historical events that led to a number of catastrophic consequences, one of them was World War II.

Let’s not be distracted by Obama’s populist rhetoric so that we fail to challenge his imperialist foreign policies that are increasing the level of danger and negative impacts for peoples in the Asia and Pacific region.

Michael Klare: Playing With Fire – Obama’s Risky Oil Threat to China

December 6, 2011 

When President Obama announced his strategic ‘pivot’ to the Asia Pacific region, most understood that it was primarily aimed at bolstering the U.S. economy and containing China. However, in Playing with Fire: Obama’s Risky Oil Threat to China, Michael Klare provides crucial analysis of the shifting “energy equation” for China and the U.S. It explains much about the political, economic and military calculus behind this move.   He writes:

The U.S. military buildup and the potential for a powerful Chinese counter-thrust have already been the subject of discussion in the American and Asian press.  But one crucial dimension of this incipient struggle has received no attention at all: the degree to which Washington’s sudden moves have been dictated by a fresh analysis of the global energy equation, revealing (as the Obama administration sees it) increased vulnerabilities for the Chinese side and new advantages for Washington.

The New Energy Equation

For decades, the United States has been heavily dependent on imported oil, much of it obtained from the Middle East and Africa, while China was largely self-sufficient in oil output.  In 2001, the United States consumed 19.6 million barrels of oil per day, while producing only nine million barrels itself.  The dependency on foreign suppliers for that 10.6 million-barrel shortfall proved a source of enormous concern for Washington policymakers.  They responded by forging ever closer, more militarized ties with Middle Eastern oil producers and going to war on occasion to ensure the safety of U.S. supply lines.

In 2001, China, on the other hand, consumed only five million barrels per day and so, with a domestic output of 3.3 million barrels, needed to import only 1.7 million barrels.  Those cold, hard numbers made its leadership far less concerned about the reliability of the country’s major overseas providers — and so it did not need to duplicate the same sort of foreign policy entanglements that Washington had long been involved in.

Now, so the Obama administration has concluded, the tables are beginning to turn.  As a result of China’s booming economy and the emergence of a sizeable and growing middle class (many of whom have already bought their first cars), the country’s oil consumption is exploding.  Running at about 7.8 million barrels per day in 2008, it will, according to recent projections by the U.S. Department of Energy, reach 13.6 million barrels in 2020, and 16.9 million in 2035.  Domestic oil production, on the other hand, is expected to grow from 4.0 million barrels per day in 2008 to 5.3 million in 2035.  Not surprisingly, then, Chinese imports are expected to skyrocket from 3.8 million barrels per day in 2008 to a projected 11.6 million in 2035 — at which time they will exceed those of the United States.

The U.S., meanwhile, can look forward to an improved energy situation.  Thanks to increased production in “tough oil” areas of the United States, including the Arctic seas off Alaska, the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and shale formations in Montana, North Dakota, and Texas, future imports are expected to decline, even as energy consumption rises.  In addition, more oil is likely to be available from the Western Hemisphere rather than the Middle East or Africa.  Again, this will be thanks to the exploitation of yet more “tough oil” areas, including the Athabasca tar sands of Canada, Brazilian oil fields in the deep Atlantic, and increasingly pacified energy-rich regions of previously war-torn Colombia.  According to the Department of Energy, combined production in the United States, Canada, and Brazil is expected to climb by 10.6 million barrels per day between 2009 and 2035 — an enormous jump, considering that most areas of the world are expecting declining output.

What does this all mean?

All of this ensures that, environmentally, militarily, and economically, we will find ourselves in a more, not less, perilous world.  The desire to turn away from disastrous land wars in the Greater Middle East to deal with key issues now simmering in Asia is understandable, but choosing a strategy that puts such an emphasis on military dominance and provocation is bound to provoke a response in kind.  It is hardly a prudent path to head down, nor will it, in the long run, advance America’s interests at a time when global economic cooperation is crucial.  Sacrificing the environment to achieve greater energy independence makes no more sense.

A new Cold War in Asia and a hemispheric energy policy that could endanger the planet: it’s a fatal brew that should be reconsidered before the slide toward confrontation and environmental disaster becomes irreversible.  You don’t have to be a seer to know that this is not the definition of good statesmanship, but of the march of folly.

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Obama on U.S. military expansion in Australia: “We are here to stay”

November 16, 2011 

The New York Times carried another article about Obama’s decision to expand the U.S. military presence and activity in Australia as part of its containment of China.  U.S. imperial arrogance is on full display. Also, the article also touches on the the new types of military basing arrangements that we are more likely to see in the coming years.  With growing pressure to cut the federal budget, foreign military bases have come under increasing scrutiny in Congress.   Joint use base agreements are a way to ensure U.S. military access to bases without having to incur the cost and effort of maintaining the bases.  For example all South Korean military bases are available for U.S. military use, which is why the Jeju island military base is seen a U.S.-driven project.  Here’s a brief excerpt from the NYT article:

“But the second message I’m trying to send is that we are here to stay,” Mr. Obama said. “This is a region of huge strategic importance to us.” He added: “Even as we make a whole host of important fiscal decisions back home, this is right up there at the top of my priority list. And we’re going to make sure that we are able to fulfill our leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region.”

On his two-day visit to Australia, the president will fly north across the continent to Darwin, a frontier port and military outpost across the Timor Sea from Indonesia, which will be the center of operations for the coming deployment. The first 200 to 250 Marines will arrive next year, with forces rotating in and out and eventually building up to 2,500, the two leaders said.

The United States will not build new bases on the continent, but will use Australian facilities instead.

U.S. to expand its military presence in Australia

November 16, 2011 

On his trip to Australia, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will expand its military footprint in Australia, but insists it is not intended to counter China in any way. Yeah, right.

President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday that the United States does not fear China, even as he announced a new security agreement with Australia that is widely viewed as a response to Beijing’s growing aggressiveness.

China responded swiftly, warning that an expanded U.S. military footprint in Australia may not be appropriate and deserved greater scrutiny.

The agreement, announced during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, will expand the U.S. military presence in Australia, positioning more U.S. personnel and equipment there, and increasing American access to bases. About 250 U.S. Marines will begin a rotation in northern Australia starting next year, with a full force of 2,500 military personnel staffing up over the next several years.

Obama called the deployment “significant,” and said it would build capacity and cooperation between the U.S. and Australia. U.S. officials were careful to emphasize that the pact was not an attempt to create a permanent American military presence in Australia.

Abercrombie’s communications director distributes anti-Obama chain email

October 18, 2011 

Ian Lind reports that Governor Abercrombie’s new communications director sent an anti-Obama chain email to a list of contacts, including prominent media personalities and political movers and shakers:

Governor Neil Abercrombie’s newly appointed communications director said he didn’t read a chain email falsely attacking President Obama for planning to honor a controversial Vietnam War-era critic of U.S. policy before forwarding the email to a group of friends. Intended recipients included a conservative talk show host and the campaign manager of Linda Lingle’s Senate bid.

Contacted this morning at the Governor’s Office, Jim Boersema said he received the email “from three different people” and immediately forwarded it to several others who share his military background and interest in Vietnam.

“I didn’t even read it,” Boersema said. “I was in the Army for 37 years. I saw it was about Vietnam, and I just forwarded it to some friends.”

Boersema acknowledges it was a mistake.

A communications director who forwards a chain email he didn’t even read?  Seriously?

The email is a rehash of an old urban legend attacking Jane Fonda for supporting “the enemy” during the Vietnam War.   Lind sets the record straight about Fonda’s reputation with GIs:

Although Jane Fonda was an easy target for conservatives, she also proved very popular among much of the conscript army of the Vietnam era.

I was at the old Civic Auditorium in Honolulu on November 25, 1971, when a capacity crowd of about 5,000 people, mostly young military personnel, jammed the building to cheer Fonda’s touring FTA show (no, not Federal Transit Adminstration, in this case it stood for “F___ the Army”).

The documentary film about the FTA variety show tour was censored in the U.S. soon after its release in 1972. But a copy resurfaced and has been re-released.

The incident reveals something about the disarray of the Abercrombie administration. The governor recently purged an entire crop of cabinet members who were part of his team to usher in a “New Day in Hawaii”.  With the appointment of Boersema, a military veteran who seems to harbor a deep antipathy to peace activists, Abercrombie seems to have veered far to the right.

10 lawmakers sue Obama over unauthorized military operations in Libya

June 16, 2011 

The AP reports that a bipartisan group of ten members of congress are is suing President Barack Obama and  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress: “The lawmakers say Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to authorize military force.”

The plaintiffs in the case are:  Democratic Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, John Conyers of Michigan and Michael Capuano of Massachusetts and Republican Reps. Walter Jones and Howard Coble of North Carolina, Tim Johnson and Dan Burton of Indiana, Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Ron Paul of Texas.

They seek a court order suspending military operations without congressional approval.

Tomgram: Juan Cole, The Asian Century?

November 15, 2010 

Source: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175319/tomgram%3A_juan_cole%2C_the_asian_century/

Tomgram: Juan Cole, The Asian Century?

Posted by Juan Cole at 9:15am, November 11, 2010.

For Barack Obama, midterm 2010 has already been written off as a crushing Republican triumph, but that’s hardly the full story.  After all, approximately 29 million Americans who voted for him in 2008 didn’t bother to stir for him or the Democrats in 2010.  Think of it this way: he’s less a man who lost to the opposition than a man who lost his own dispirited base, much of which is by now thoroughly disappointed, if not mad as hell, and evidently not particularly interested in supporting him anymore.

Like many presidents in defeat, he promptly left town (or “the bubble,” as he’s taken to calling it) for places as far east as possible, in this case all in Asia.  In the wake of an electoral blowout, this previously planned diplomatic journey of goodwill was quickly recast as a search for American jobs.  A little late to launch that search, of course, and India may not be the perfect fit either.   After all, any American who has ever made that desperate call for computer or other technical assistance and found him or herself on the phone with some young person not in Bangor, Maine, but Bangalore, India, probably won’t be overwhelmed by the allure of India’s ability to deliver jobs to the U.S.

Nonetheless, the president gamely arrived in India touting one of two industries which make things that go boom in the dark, where the U.S. still can’t be beat.   No, I’m not talking about Hollywood.  You wouldn’t take Hollywood to Bollywood, after all.  I’m talking about that other American boom-time business under bust-time conditions: the making of high-tech weaponry.  India was once a Russian bailiwick when it came to arms sales, but no longer.  So the president arrived with a Boeing deal to sell C-17 transport planes to the Indian military for up to $5.8 billion (and so, supposedly, create 22,000 new American jobs).  A “preliminary agreement” was inked on this trip, while the two countries agreed on a counterterrorism security initiative, and the U.S. lifted certain export controls on dual-use technology as well.

If weapons sales abroad could pull the U.S. out of its present job doldrums, however, they would have done so long ago.  In the post-Cold War era the U.S. practically cornered the global arms market.  If you want to count on anything, however, count on this: we’d be perfectly happy to arm to the teeth the two great regional rivals in South Asia, India and Pakistan, if they’ll let us.  After all, we arm the world (and worry about it later).  Think of today’s piece by Juan Cole, who runs the invaluable Informed Comment website and whose latest book is Engaging the Muslim World, as a preview presidential tour of the coming ruins of the American empire.  Tom

Obama in Asia
Meeting American Decline Face to Face
By Juan Cole

Blocked from major new domestic initiatives by a Republican victory in the midterm elections, President Barack Obama promptly lit out for Asia, a far more promising arena.  That continent, after all, is rising, and Obama is eager to grasp the golden ring of Asian success.

Beyond being a goodwill ambassador for ten days, Obama is seeking sales of American-made durable and consumer goods, weapons deals, an expansion of trade, green energy cooperation, and the maintenance of a geopolitical balance in the region favorable to the United States.  Just as the decline of the American economy hobbled him at home, however, the weakness of the United States on the world stage in the aftermath of Bush-era excesses has made real breakthroughs abroad unlikely.

Add to this the peculiar obsessions of the Washington power elite, with regard to Iran for instance, and you have an unpalatable mix.  These all-American fixations are viewed as an inconvenience or worse in Asia, where powerful regional hegemons are increasingly determined to chart their own courses, even if in public they continue to humor a somewhat addled and infirm Uncle Sam.

Although the United States is still the world’s largest economy, it is shackled by enormous public and private debt as well as fundamental weaknesses.  Rivaled by an increasingly integrated European Union, it is projected to be overtaken economically by China in just over a decade.  While the president’s first stop, India, now has a nominal gross domestic product of only a little over a trillion dollars a year, it, too, is growing rapidly, even spectacularly, and its GDP may well quadruple by the early 2020s.  The era of American dominance, in other words, is passing, and the time (just after World War II) when the U.S. accounted for half the world economy, a dim memory.

The odd American urge to invest heavily in perpetual war abroad, including “defense-related” spending of around a trillion dollars a year, has been a significant factor further weakening the country on the global stage.  Most of the conventional weapons on which the U.S. continues to splurge could not even be deployed against nuclear powers like Russia, China, and India, emerging as key competitors when it comes to global markets, resources, and regional force projection.  Those same conventional weapons have proved hardly more useful (in the sense of achieving quick and decisive victory, or even victory at all) in the unconventional wars the U.S. has repeatedly plunged into — a sad fact that Bush’s reckless attempt to occupy entire West Asian nations only demonstrated even more clearly to Washington’s bemused rivals.

American weapons stockpiles (and copious plans for ever more high-tech versions of the same into the distant future) are therefore remarkably irrelevant to its situation, and known to be so.  Meanwhile, its economy, burdened by debts incurred through wars and military spending sprees, and hollowed out by Wall Street shell games, is becoming a B-minus one in global terms.

A Superpower With Feet of Clay

Just how weakened the United States has been in Asia is easily demonstrated by the series of rebuffs its overtures have suffered from regional powers.  When, for instance, a tiff broke out this fall between China and Japan over a collision at sea near the disputed Senkaku Islands, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to mediate.  The offer was rejected out of hand by the Chinese, who appear to have deliberately halted exports of strategic rare-earth metals to Japan and the United States as a hard-nosed bargaining ploy.  In response, the Obama administration quickly turned mealy-mouthed, affirming that while the islands come under American commitments to defend Japan for the time being, it would take no position on the question of who ultimately owned them.

Likewise, Pakistani politicians and pundits were virtually unanimous in demanding that President Obama raise the issue of disputed Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his Indian sojourn.  The Indians, however, had already firmly rejected any internationalization of the controversy, which centers on the future of the Muslim-majority state, a majority of whose inhabitants say they want independence.  Although Obama had expressed an interest in helping resolve the Kashmir dispute during his presidential campaign, by last March his administration was already backing away from any mediation role unless both sides asked for Washington’s help.  In other words, Obama and Clinton promptly caved in to India’s insistence that it was the regional power in South Asia and would brook no external interference.

This kind of regional near impotence is only reinforced by America’s perpetual (yet ever faltering) war machine.  Nor, as Obama moves through Asia, can he completely sidestep controversies provoked by the Afghan War, his multiple-personality approach to Pakistan, and his administration’s obsessive attempt to isolate and punish Iran.  As Obama arrives in Seoul, for instance, Iran will be on the agenda.  This fall, South Korea, a close American ally, managed to play a game of one step forward, two steps back with regard to Washington-supported sanctions against that energy-rich country.

The government did close the Seoul branch of Iran’s Bank Milli, sanctioning it and other Iranian firms.  Then, the South Koreans turned around and, according to the Financial Times, appointed two banks to handle payments involving trade between the two countries via the (unsanctioned) Tehran Central Bank.  In doing so, the government insulated other South Korean banks from possible American sanctions, while finding a way for Iran to continue to purchase South Korean autos and other goods.

Before the latest round of U.N. Security Council sanctions South Korea was doing $10 billion a year in trade with Iran, involving some 2,142 Korean companies.  Iran’s half of this trade — it provides nearly 10% of South Korea’s petroleum imports — has been largely unaffected.  South Korea’s exports to Iran, on the other hand, have fallen precipitously under the pressure of the sanctions regime.  Sanctions that hold Iran harmless but punish a key American ally by hurting its trade and creating a balance of payments problem are obviously foolish.

The Iranian press claims that South Korean firms are now planning to invest money in Iranian industrial towns.  Given that Obama has expended political capital persuading South Korea to join a U.S.-organized free trade zone and change its tariffs to avoid harming the American auto industry, it is unlikely that he could now seek to punish South Korea for its quiet defiance on the issue of Iran.

China is the last major country with a robust energy industry still actively investing in Iran, and Washington entertains dark suspicions that some of its firms are even transferring technology that might help the Iranians in their nuclear energy research projects.  This bone of contention is likely to form part of the conversation between Obama and President Hu Jintao before Thursday’s G20 meeting of the world’s wealthiest 20 countries.

Given tensions between Washington and Beijing over the massive balance of trade deficit the U.S. is running with China (which the Obama administration attributes, in part, to an overvalued Chinese currency), not to speak of other contentious issues, Iran may not loom large in their discussions. One reason for this may be that, frustrating as Chinese stonewalling on its currency may seem, they are likely to give even less ground on relations with Iran — especially since they know that Washington can’t do much about it.  Another fraught issue is China’s plan to build a nuclear reactor for Pakistan, something that also alarms Islamabad’s nuclear rival, India.

Rising Asia

If you want to measure the scope of American decline since the height of the Cold War era, remember that back then Iran and Pakistan were American spheres of influence from which other great powers were excluded.  Now, the best the U.S. can manage in Pakistan is the political (and military) equivalent of a condominium or perhaps a time-share — and in Iran, nothing at all.

Despite his feel-good trip to India last weekend, during which he announced some important business deals for U.S. goods, Obama has remarkably little to offer the Indians.  That undoubtedly is why the president unexpectedly announced Washington’s largely symbolic support for a coveted seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a ringing confirmation of India’s status as a rising power.

Some Indian politicians and policy-makers, however, are insisting that their country’s increasing demographic, military, and economic hegemony over South Asia be recognized by Washington, and that the U.S. cease its support of, and massive arms sales to, Pakistan.  In addition, New Delhi is eager to expand its geopolitical position in Afghanistan, where it is a major funder of civilian reconstruction projects, and is apprehensive about any plans for a U.S. withdrawal from that country.  An Indian-dominated Afghanistan is, of course, Pakistan’s worst fear.

In addition, India’s need for petroleum is expected to grow by 40% during the next decade and a half.  Energy-hungry, like neighboring Pakistan, it can’t help glancing longingly at Iran’s natural gas and petroleum fields, despite Washington’s threats to slap third-party sanctions on any firm that helps develop them.  American attempts to push India toward dirty energy sources, including nuclear power (the waste product of which is long-lived and problematic) and shale gas, as a way of reducing its interest in Iranian and Persian Gulf oil and gas, are another Washington “solution” for the region likely to be largely ignored, given how close at hand inexpensive Gulf hydrocarbons are.

It is alarming to consider what exactly New Delhi imagines the planet’s former “sole superpower” has to offer at this juncture — mostly U.S. troops fighting a perceived threat in Afghanistan and the removal of Congressional restrictions on sales of advanced weaponry to India.  The U.S. military in Afghanistan is seen as a proxy for Indian interests in putting down the Taliban and preventing the reestablishment of Pakistani hegemony over Kabul.  For purely self-interested reasons Prime Minister Singh has long taken the same position as the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, urging Obama to postpone any plans to begin a drawdown in Afghanistan in the summer of 2011.

The most significant of the Indian purchases trumpeted by the president last weekend were military in character.  Obama proclaimed that the $10 billion in deals he was inking would create 54,000 new American jobs.  Right now, it’s hard to argue with job creation or multi-billion-dollar sales of U.S.-made goods abroad.  As former secretary of labor Robert Reich has pointed out, however, jobs in the defense industry are expensive to create, while offering a form of artificial corporate welfare that distorts the American economy and diverts resources from far more crucial priorities.

To think of this another way, President Obama is in danger of losing control of his South Asian foreign policy agenda to India, its Republican supporters in the House, and the military-industrial complex.

As the most dynamic region in the world, Asia is the place where rapid change can create new dynamics.  American trade with the European Union has grown over the past decade (as has the EU itself), but is unlikely to be capable of doubling in just a few years.  After all, the populations of some European countries, like powerhouse Germany, will probably shrink in coming decades.

India, by contrast, is projected to overtake China in population around 2030 and hit the billion-and-a-half-inhabitants mark by mid-century (up from 1.15 billion today).  Its economy, like China’s, has been growing 8% to 9% a year, creating powerful new demand in the world market.  President Obama is hoping to see U.S. exports to India double by 2015.  Likewise, with its economy similarly booming, China is making its own ever more obvious bid to stride like a global colossus through the twenty-first century.

The Hessians of a Future Asia?

Unsurprisingly, beneath the pomp and splendor of Obama’s journey through Asia has lurked a far tawdrier vision — of a much weakened president presiding over a much weakened superpower, both looking somewhat desperately for succor abroad. If the United States is to remain a global power, it is important that Washington offer something to the world besides arms and soldiers.

Obama has been on the money when he’s promoted green-energy technology as a key field where the United States could make its mark (and possibly its fortune) globally.  Unfortunately, as elsewhere, here too the United States is falling behind, and a Republican House as well as a bevy of new Republican governors and state legislatures are highly unlikely to effectively promote the greening of American technology.

In the end, Obama’s trip has proven a less than effective symbolic transition from George W. Bush’s muscular unilateralism to a new American-led multilateralism in Asia.  Rather, at each stop, Obama has bumped up against the limits of American economic and diplomatic clout in the new Asian world order.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney thought in terms of expanding American conventional military weapons stockpiles and bases, occupying countries when necessary, and so ensuring that the U.S. would dominate key planetary resources for decades to come.  Their worldview, however, was mired in mid-twentieth-century power politics.

If they thought they were placing a marker down on another American century, they were actually gambling away the very houses we live in and reducing us to a debtor nation struggling to retain its once commanding superiority in the world economy.  In the meantime, the multi-millionaires and billionaires created by neoliberal policies and tax cuts in the West will be as happy to invest in (and perhaps live in) Asia as in the United States.

In the capitals of a rising Asia, Washington’s incessant campaign to strengthen sanctions against Iran, and in some quarters its eagerness for war with that country, is viewed as another piece of lunatic adventurism.  The leaders of India, China, and South Korea, among other countries, are determined to do their best to sidestep this American obsession and integrate Iran into their energy and trading futures.

In some ways, the darkest vision of an American future arrived in 1991 thanks to President George H. W. Bush.  At that time, he launched a war in the Persian Gulf to protect local oil producers from an aggressive Iraq.  That war was largely paid for by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, rendering the U.S. military for the first time a sort of global mercenary force.  Just as the poor in any society often join the military as a way of moving up in the world, so in the century of Asia, the U.S. could find itself in danger of being reduced to the role of impoverished foot soldier fighting for others’ interests, or of being the glorified ironsmiths making arsenals of weaponry for the great powers of the future.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.  His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website.

Copyright 2010 Juan Cole

Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The East

November 7, 2010 

Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The East

by Rick Rozoff

Global Research, November 7, 2010
Stop NATO

President Barack Obama arrived in Mumbai, India on November 6 and announced $10 billion in business deals with his host country which he claimed will contribute to 50,000 new American jobs. By some accounts half the transactions will be for India’s purchase of U.S. military equipment and half the new jobs will be created in the defense sector.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is completing a nearly two-week tour of the Asia-Pacific region which will culminate in meeting up with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen in Australia on November 8 to among other matters secure the use of the country’s military bases.

Gates will then visit Malaysia, “amid concern in the region over China’s growing economic and naval power” [1], to solidify military ties with the Southeast Asian nation as Obama moves to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan after his first visit to India on what will be his longest trip abroad since assuming the presidency.

Obama styles himself “America’s first Pacific president,” having been born in Hawaii and spending part of his childhood in Indonesia, and his administration has targeted Asia for the expansion of U.S. military influence and presence.

Several months ago a Chinese report warned that his visit to India was designed in large part to “secure $5 billion worth of arms sales,” a deal that “would make the US replace Russia as India’s biggest arms supplier” and “help India curb China’s rise.” [2]

What he has accomplished is “a $5 billion sale for 10 of Boeing’s C-17 cargo planes” which represents “the sixth biggest arms deal in U.S. history.”

“This and the pending $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia will certainly help to jump-start the economy, as they [arms sales] have for the past fifty years.” [3]

Job creation in the U.S. is an abysmal failure except in the military sector.

“Boeing said the C-17 deal with India will support 650 suppliers in 44 U.S. states and support the company’s own C-17 production facility in Long Beach, California, for an entire year.” [4]

Other deals included an $822 million contract for General Electric to provide 107 F414 engines for the Tejas lightweight multirole jet fighter being developed by India.

Rahul Bedi, Indian-based correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, recently revealed that since U.S. sanctions enforced after India’s 1998 nuclear tests were lifted in 2001 “India has concluded and signed arms contract worth $12 billion. This includes maritime reconnaissance aircraft (Boeing P-81), missiles, artillery guns, radars and transport aircraft.

“India is also buying heavy lift transport for the air force (C-17s). An artillery radar contract was the first of its kind worth $142 million. Over the next years, India is going to go for repeat orders of C-17s [Globemaster IIIs], C-130J Super Hercules [military transport aircraft], etc.” and “these contracts are worth another 7 to 8 billion dollars.” [5]

The projected purchase of 126 multirole combat aircraft will account for another $10 billion and other contracts for assorted military helicopters are also being pursued by Washington. What is in question is $15 billion in weapons deals.

With already concluded and potential contracts, “we are talking about very, very big business. We are talking about the shifting of Indian military hardware, completely.

“Shifting from Russian components to American ones is a big shift. In the mid-90s, the Pentagon had assessed that by 2015 [it] would like India to source it’s 25 per cent of hardware. They seem to be well on their way in meeting their target.

“The profile of Indian military hardware is becoming US-oriented. This will bring definitive change in Indian military doctrine because it’s dependent on [imported] equipment.”

The U.S. is also pressuring the Indian government to sign several military-related agreements, including a Logistics Support Agreement which could prove “dangerous because the use of US ports by Indians will be zero while the US can or may use Indian bases frequently because of their presence in the region. So, technically speaking, if the US should have problem[s] with Iran or Pakistan they, under the agreement, may use our bases. Indian soil can become a lunching pad for refuelling or servicing.” [6]

Addressing the U.S.-India Business Council in Mumbai on November 6, Obama said: “There is no reason why India cannot be our top trading partner (from 12th position now)….I’m absolutely sure that the relationship between India and the US is going to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.” [7] That is, one of the decisive political-military alliances of the century.

In the words of Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, “The simple truth is that India’s rise, and its strength and progress on the global stage, is deeply in the strategic interest of the United States.” [8]

Obama will leave India on November 8, when Clinton, Gates and Mullen gather in Australia, and head to Indonesia where he will exploit his childhood history and then to the G-20 meeting in South Korea and the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Japan.

Indian troops are currently participating with U.S. airborne forces in this year’s annual Yudh Abhyas joint military exercises “involving airborne specialist operations in sub-zero temperatures in Alaska” of a sort that could be put to use along India’s Himalayan border with China in the event of an armed conflict like that which occurred in 1962.

“The exercise will test the mettle of the Indian Army men in performing operations in extreme cold conditions in Alaska where the temperature hovers around minus 20 degree Celsius.

“The exercise is designed to promote cooperation between the two militaries to promote interoperability through the combined military decision-making process, through battle tracking and manoeuvring forces, and exchange of tactics, techniques and procedures.” [9] Last year’s Yudh Abhyas, held in India, was the largest U.S.-Indian military exercise to date. [10]

From September 29-October 4 personnel from the Indian army, air force and navy trained with the U.S.’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit at the latter’s base in Okinawa in the East China Sea during the Habu Nag 2010 “bilateral amphibious training exercise between India and the United States, designed to increase interoperability during amphibious operations,” the first time “the Indian military had the chance to work alongside Marines in this situation.” [11]

“Okinawa is located close to China and has a significant US presence where several military bases are concentrated.” [12]

Clinton began her six-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region on October 27 by visiting a military base in Hawaii, meeting with the head of U.S. Pacific Command and assuring the foreign minister of Japan that the U.S. is prepared to honor its military commitments under terms of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in the event of further clashes between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. [13]

The next day U.S. and Japanese warships participated in an advanced ballistic missile interception test off the coast of Hawaii and on November 2 the U.S. launched the two-week Orient Shield 11 (XI) military exercise with 400 U.S. National Guard and 200 Japanese troops in the latter’s nation.

“Since World War II concluded, the United States has worked to build a better relationship with Japan. In 1960, the U.S. and Japan signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, a binding agreement for both countries to support each other from enemy attack.” As such, “United States Army Japan facilitates a two-week Orient Shield exercise in Japan each fall….”

In the words of the commander of the Japanese forces involved this year, “Our main goal is to enhance the interoperability between the U.S. and Japan.” [14]

Since Hillary Clinton spoke this July of U.S. intentions to intervene in territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and its neighbors, the Pentagon has conducted three joint military exercises with South Korea, including in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan/East Sea, and one with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

Last month the U.S. led a 14-nation Proliferation Security Initiative [15] naval exercise off the southern port city of Busan, “marking the first time for South Korea to host such a drill.” [16] In addition to the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Lassen and two South Korean destroyers, a Japanese ship and personnel from Australia, Canada and France participated.

In late September China’s Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo warned that “A series of military drills initiated by the US and China’s neighboring countries showed that the US wants to increase its military presence in Asia.”

“The purpose of these military drills launched by the US is to target multiple countries including China, Russia and North Korea and to build up strategic ties with its allied countries like Japan and South Korea.” [17]

Secretary of State Clinton arrived in New Zealand on November 4. Like South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and now Japan (which has announced plans to deploy Self-Defense Forces medical personnel), New Zealand has troops serving in Afghanistan.

“New Zealand has participated in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, with 140 personnel carrying out reconstruction work in Bamiyan and 70 special forces troops in the country believed to be operating in Kabul.”

Her visit revived and expanded military ties between the U.S and New Zealand that had been dormant since 1986, “mark[ing] the end of a row over nuclear weapons dating back almost 25 years,” according to Prime Minister John Key.

“U.S. and New Zealand troops could train together” again, the press reported, and two days before Clinton’s arrival the New Zealand government published a 100-page defense white paper, the first in 13 years, detailing “closer military relations with the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, as well as enhanced front-line capabilities.

“On the ground the army will get more front-line soldiers and Special Air Service elite troops, while on the seas the Anzac frigates will be upgraded….Hillary Clinton arrived in New Zealand for a three-day visit, prompting one newspaper to suggest it was a perfect gift for her.” [18]

Though not of the same scope, the New Zealand white paper follows one by Australia last year that calls for a post-World War Two record $72 billion arms build-up. [19]

Clinton’s next stop was Australia, where Pentagon chief Gates had also arrived to “reinforce the U.S. commitment to the region with a longstanding U.S. ally and an increasingly close partner,” according to Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

Clinton, Gates and U.S. military chief Admiral Mullen will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Defense Minister John Faulkner on November 8 for the 25th anniversary Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) meeting.

The Pentagon spokesman added that “This year’s talks will cover a broad range of foreign policy, defense and strategic issues, including ongoing military operations in Afghanistan,” noting that “Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the International Security Assistance Force” in Afghanistan. [20]

Morrell emphasized the meeting would strengthen the U.S.’s alliance with Australia and would contribute to increased collaboration with regional partners to ensure “maritime security” in Asia. As a news source put it, “US officials often employ the phrase ‘maritime security’ to refer to concerns about China’s assertive stance over territorial rights in the Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea.” [21]

A local news report recently divulged that “Australia has agreed to a major escalation of military co-operation with the US,” including “more visits by American ships, aircraft and troops and their forces exercising here regularly….”

“Access to Australian Defence Force facilities will allow the US to step up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region…as concern grows about China’s military expansion.”

Three “big announcements” on military cooperation will be made after the Australia-United States Ministerial consultations and “Increased numbers of US personnel in Australian facilities are expected within months, and the tempo of military exercises will be stepped up as that happens.” [22]

The military installations that the Pentagon will gain access to are expected to include army and air force bases at Townsville, the new Coonawarra naval base in Darwin, the Stirling naval base on Garden Island and the Bradshaw Field Training Area.

“The Australian development is part of a new US strategy to step up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region after reviews of strategic policy concluded that the Bush government’s attempts to project power from North America were not working.” [23]

When Clinton arrived in Melbourne on November 6 she “signalled increased military cooperation with Australia.”

“Easier use of Australian bases, more joint training programmes and more visits by ships, planes and troops are proposed. There could also be stockpiling of US military equipment and supplies at local bases, and a joint space tracking facility that would monitor missiles, satellites and space junk.”

In her own words: “I think it’s going to be an issue of discussion at AUSMIN (Australia-US ministerial level talks Monday) about the cooperation on a range of matters, including space, cyber-security and so much else.”

New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed that her administration would “welcome the United States making greater use of our ports and our training facilities, our test-firing ranges.” [24]

The focus of U.S. military strategy has shifted from Europe, subjugated through NATO expansion, and Africa, subordinated under U.S. Africa Command, to Asia. An Asia-Pacific analogue of NATO and AFRICOM is being expanded by the day.

Notes

1) Radio Netherlands, November 4, 2010

2) Global Times, July 13, 2010

http://world.globaltimes.cn/asia-pacific/2010-07/550830.html

3) Anika Anand, The Real Reason For Obama’s Trip To India: The Sixth Biggest

Arms Deal In U.S. History

Business Insider, November 6, 2010

http://www.businessinsider.com/top-10-us-arms-deals-in-history-2010-11

4) CNN, November 6, 2010

5) Sheela Bhatt, As Obama arrives, US bids for heavy arms business

Rediff News, November 5, 2010

http://news.rediff.com/special/2010/nov/05/obama-visit-special-as-arrives-us-bids-for-heavy-arms-business.htm

6) Ibid

7) Press Trust of India, November 6, 2010

8) CNN, November 6, 2010

9) Press Trust of India, November 4, 2010

10) India: U.S. Completes Global Military Structure

Stop NATO, September 10, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/india-u-s-completes-global-military-structure

11) United States Marine Corps, October 5, 2010

12) Indian Express, September 22, 2010

13) U.S. Supports Japan, Confronts China And Russia Over Island Disputes, Stop NATO, November 4, 2010, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/u-s-supports-japan-confronts-china-and-russia-over-island-disputes

14) U.S. Army Japan, November 2, 2010

15) Proliferation Security Initiative And U.S. 1,000-Ship Navy: Control Of World’s Oceans, Prelude To War, Stop NATO, January 29, 2009, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/proliferation-security-initiative-and-us-1000-ship-navy-control-of-worlds-oceans-prelude-to-war

16) Korea Herald, October 13, 2010

17) Global Times, September 26, 2010

18) United Press International, November 4, 2010

19) Australian Military Buildup And The Rise Of Asian NATO, Stop NATO, May 6, 2009, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/australian-military-buildup-and-the-rise-of-asian-nato

20) U.S. Department of Defense, November 4, 2010

21) Radio Netherlands, November 4, 2010

22) Australian Associated Press, November 6, 2010

23) Ibid

U.S. Marshals Military Might To Challenge Asian Century, Stop NATO, August 21, 2010, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/u-s-marshals-military-might-to-challenge-asian-century

24) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, November 6, 2010

+++

Stop NATO http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato

Blog site: http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/

© Copyright Rick Rozoff, Stop NATO, 2010

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21804

Okinawa problem could boil over

August 1, 2010 

According to Asia analyst Peter Ennis, the August and November deadlines for finalizing plans for the realignment of U.S. bases in Okinawa and Guam will not be met.  In a Pan Orient Op Ed piece, Peter Ennis wrote:

Indeed, the political underpinnings of the 2006 bilateral “Roadmap” for realignment of US forces in Japan, of which the relocation of some 8,500 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam and the construction of a Futenma replacement facility are cornerstones, are coming undone in both countries.

It has been reported that the Japanese government will “defer decisions until after the Okinawa gubernatorial election, scheduled for late November.”  According to Ennis:

The Okinawa election is likely to institutionalize widespread opposition to construction of the Futenma replacement facility. Prime Minister Kan has already said he will not forcibly begin construction. To do so could easily spark broader opposition to US bases in Japan, which neither Washington nor Tokyo wants to see happen. So the stage is increasingly set for Tokyo, while ceaselessly voicing support for the replacement facility, to shrug its post-election shoulders and say it needs more (undefined) time to bring Okinawan opinion along.

Ennis poses the crucial question for the U.S.:

The big question now is how the Obama administration will respond to a situation over which it is rapidly losing even the pretense of control.

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